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Ratten: From student to master

Brett Ratten on his coaching journey, relationships and his old mate Richo. Linton St | Episode 7 Brett Ratten, Brendon Lade and Jake Batchelor on their journey to St Kilda.
I think Alan trusts my view on things and scenarios and the experience that I have as a coach.
Brett Ratten

Brett Ratten was respected as one the finest midfielders of the 1990s.

Now in the coaches’ box, his reputation has been just as revered.

A medial ligament injury sustained in 1994 sidelined Ratten for 14 weeks, but it was during this extended stint off the field where his appetite for coaching came to the fore.

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“I was a student of the game in regards to analysing the opposition and things like that,” Ratten said in the latest instalment of Linton St, the club’s new documentary series.

“I thought ‘I can’t play in this period, but what I can do is upskill myself to be a player that’s got a lot of knowledge on opposition teams and opposition players’, so from that point of view I sort of studied the game, and that gave me an appetite.”

After his 255-game career game to an end in 2003, Ratten joined the Demons’ coaching panel under the tutelage of Neale Daniher and Chris Fagan, before being appointed as Carlton’s senior coach in 2007 following the sacking of Denis Pagan.

And while he coached the Blues to the finals on four occasions after six seasons in the chief role, it wasn’t until Ratten was recruited by Hawthorn that he was able to taste the ultimate success.

Three successive premierships from 2013-15 immortalised the Hawks as arguably the greatest team of the modern era, with Ratten, as assistant coach, playing a vital role in the team’s cohesion both in the box and on the field.

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“When you have success, it builds a lot of confidence and trust with the dynamics in the coaching group, let alone the players as well,” Ratten said.

It’s the sort of relationship he hopes to nurture for the red, white and black; his bond with senior coach Alan Richardson crucial in breaking the Saints’ 53-year premiership drought.

After becoming friends through their children and during their own basketball games, the duo coached alongside each other for two years at Carlton, with Ratten leading the Blues’ charge as senior coach.

Now reunited again at St Kilda with Richardson at the helm, the trust between the two – as well as the rest of the playing and coaching personnel – will be nothing short of vital in Season 2019.

“There’s an understanding of each other. I think Alan trusts my view on things and scenarios and the experience that I have as a coach, and that’s what I think I’m here to do as well, to help and assist him as much as I can,” Ratten said.

Sometimes when you’re the senior coach you feel like you’re the lone soldier there a fair bit at times, and I think the support around the coach is so important.”

It’s a less than ideal scenario both coaches have found themselves in during their respective tenures, where success has been painfully elusive.

“When it’s going well, that’s great, but when things aren’t or [Alan’s] having trouble working things out, we’re there to make sure his life’s easier to do what he does best and that’s coach footy,” Ratten said.

And with such chemistry – a quality Ratten holds in high regard – he’s adamant St Kilda has the capabilities to make a charge up the ladder and forge a new and successful AFL legacy.

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“We have the opportunity to create the next [premiership], and these players that walk through the door and when they get drafted to St Kilda Football Club have that opportunity,” he said.

“But what you have to do is get yourself into a position.  And whether you’re good enough or it works out, whatever, but if you don’t get yourself in a strong enough position, you’re never a chance.”

“Whether it’s in the short-term or a little bit longer who knows, but that’s what we’re going to be working on really hard.”